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Education transitions for children with SEN and disabilities

The term ‘education transition’ can be used to describe any changes for your child with special education needs and disability as they are moving into, within, between and out of educational settings.

The key educational transition stages are:

  • starting early years

The move from:

  • early years to primary school
  • key stages within primary school (Early Years  to Key stage 1; KS1 to KS2 and possibly moving between year groups)
  • primary to secondary school
  • secondary school to further education or work and preparing for adulthood

Good practice for transitions

The SEND Code of Practice states

"Early years providers and schools should support children so that they are included in social groups and develop friendships. This is particularly important when children are transferring from one phase of education to another (for example from nursery to primary school". 

Transitions may cause your child anxiety and it is important for parents, education staff and other professionals to work together and give them the help and support they need.  Transition planning should also be discussed and planned for when your child moves between classes or years. This can help to ensure a smooth handover into their new class or year group. Speak to your child’s education setting or school to plan for this. Schools must publish a SEN Information Report on their websites and this should include arrangements for supporting children and young people in moving between phases of education and in preparing for adulthood.

They may also publish extra helpful information. Here is an example from a local school

Before every transition stage, the current education setting will organise a planning meeting with the receiving school and this meeting may involve parents. This should happen regardless of whether a child with special educational needs and disabilities has an Education, Health and Care plan or not. The planning meeting will help everyone to discuss the needs of the child and decide on what support is required.

It can help your child to transition well between settings if they have:

  • regular visits to their new school or college
  • the opportunity to meet key staff
  • visits to their current school or college from staff that will be working with them in the future
  • their new timetable so they can talk about any concerns before they start
  • a visual timetable if necessary
  • the opportunity to try out lunchtime arrangements at their new school or college
  • their transport planned, including any travel training they may need

It is also good to ask if you can take photos of your child in the setting as well as photos of the different areas within the school or college, including key staff. Older children could take photos themselves when they make transition visits. Schools will be able to provide photos too.  If you feel it would be useful you can make a photo book to look at with your child. This will give them reassurance and familiarity in the lead up to moving to their new school or setting. 

Achieving for Children provides transition resources for schools to use to ensure a robust transition takes place. 

Starting pre-school or going to a childminder can be difficult for any child, but even more so for those with additional needs. When looking for a pre-school for your child, arrange to visit and talk to staff about your child’s needs and how you help them at home. Watch them interact with other children and, if possible, speak to other parents.

Ask if staff can visit you at home so your child can start to feel comfortable with them.

Childminders will be happy to arrange settling in visits for your child.

If you have professionals involved, ask them how they can help.

When your child is moving up to primary school into reception class, arrange to visit and talk to staff about your child’s needs and how you help them at home. This would also be part of the planning meeting as school would be invited to attend.

Arrange for your child to visit their primary school as often as they need before they start. Additional visits are often agreed and supported where possible by the education setting staff.

Try to spend time in key areas of the school when they are empty for your child to get used to the classroom.  Ask if your child could meet their new teacher, teaching assistant and any other support staff on their own. Take photos for a book or ask if school would provide one.

If your child has an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP), you could ask for the annual review to take place at the new school though the school should be invited anyway.

The transition from early years to primary school starts early for children with an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP). The Early Years team will support this process.

If you have any concerns about your child’s progress when they have started school, arrange to meet their teacher or the school Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator (SENCO).

When your child starts a new school, it is important that current school staff are well informed about your child’s needs. This would mean talking to you and your child and the primary school. If your child has an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP) this discussion may be done as part of their annual review.

The SENCO from the primary school and secondary school will meet to discuss your child’s needs during the summer term. This will include transfer of school information such as assessment results. Secondary SENCOs will often attend the year 6 annual review if a child has an EHCP.

Arrange for your child to visit their new school as often as they need before they start.

The transition from primary school to secondary school starts early for children with an education, health and care plan (EHCP).

Find out more about moving up a school with an Education Heath and Care Plan

The SEND code of practice suggests that education, health and care plans should be reviewed and amended in sufficient time so that planning and commissioning of support can take place before children move between key phases of their education.The year 5 annual review is a good opportunity to update the provision, outcomes and needs of your child within the EHCP. It is helpful if you and your child start visiting possible secondary schools in Year 5 so that the decision can be made in good time.

If you have any concerns about your child’s progress when they have started school, you should arrange to meet their teacher, Head of Year or the school Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator.

From around year 8/9 your child should be encouraged to think about what they may like to do in the future. This includes:

  • further or higher education
  • training or work experience
  • employment 
  • independent living
  • interests and hobbies within their community 
  • thinking about their health needs

By the age of 13 to 14, someone from your child’s school will be responsible for co-ordinating a meeting to discuss plans for the future. This should involve your child and have details of their hopes, dreams and a plan of how they will be supported to achieve them.

If your child has an Education Health and Care Plan this will be discussed in their annual reviews meetings.